I have the best job in the world. Almost every day, I am able to help individuals whose livelihood is threatened by disability. I am able to fight the good fight against unscrupulous insurance companies on behalf of the disabled. I have freedom—the type of freedom that is only possible when you own your own business. All of this, while I am passionate about what I do and earn a very nice living. I am truly blessed, I know it, and I will never forget it.
I have always been extremely driven and results oriented. When I was young, my mother often told me that I had “infinite patience.” Over time, I began to internalize this concept of myself, but eventually I realized that my mom was mistaken. In actuality, I am very “impatient.” What I have, and what my mother recognized but misunderstood, is industry and ingenuity. When I want something, I am dogged in my pursuit, focused and creative. These qualities have served me well in both my life and career.
By my freshman year in college, I knew I wanted to become a lawyer and that I wanted to attend a top-rated law school. In order to do so, I knew that I had to differentiate myself from the thousands of other qualified candidates. I needed more than just high grades and top LSAT scores. With the arrogance of youth, I convinced myself that a law school would admit me if I did something extraordinary, such as publish a book. Ignoring the naysaying of all the skeptics, I followed my dream and did just that. Along with another student, and while still an undergraduate, I spent countless hours researching and compiling an extensive reference book, titled, “Multinational Corporations Law: Bibliography of Multinational Corporations and Foreign Direct Investment.” The book was published in 1978 by Oceana Publications, a prominent publisher of books on international relations.
Knowing the book would have more impact if they saw it, I sent a copy of the book (668 pages) to each law school along with my law school application. In contrast to other applicants, my application was 4 inches thick, and could not be confused with the other applications. I was admitted to 6 top law schools. I chose University of Michigan Law School because it had a stellar reputation and a Gothic campus that reminded me of Oxford University. When I was admitted, I literally felt like I had won the lottery. Even better, not only did the book get me into a top law school, it sold thousands of copies, helping me pay for law school.
Photo of a proud 20-year-old Scott, just prior to shipping the books to the various law schools.
Career as a Lawyer
Although I was quick to become a lawyer, I needed 10 years of searching to find my legal niche and passion. I started out at a small general practice law firm on Wall Street, named Gould & Wilkie. Shortly after starting I was called into a partner’s office, who asked me “Have you ever seen the movie, The Graduate?” After I told him yes, the partner said, then I have only one word for you, “Pensions” (instead of the famous line, “Plastics”). He then said that Pensions were the single most important area of the law. It was with that one word, entirely by happenstance, that I found myself thrown into the world of ERISA.
The partner was right. Pension law under ERISA was hot. It was the mid-1980s. I found myself recruited by several large firms, before deciding on Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler. Patterson had the largest pension law department in the country with approximately 25 lawyers in the department. At Patterson, I earned more money, and learned a lot about ERISA, but structuring the pension plans of corporations just did not fit into my self-image and life’s goals. I just could not picture myself as a pension lawyer my whole life—not that there is anything wrong with it. By late in the afternoon, I found myself staring out the window feeling trapped. Although I was now aged 30 with a wife, a child and a mortgage, I needed a change.
Leaving what many would think was a dream job, I left Patterson and the world of ERISA. I became a litigation associate at the small law firm, Schoeman, Marsh, Updike & Welt. I took a 30% pay cut, but was much happier being a litigator, rather than a corporate ERISA lawyer. I gained valuable litigation experience defending personal injury claims filed against the New York City Housing Authority, fighting on the front lines at the Bronx and Brooklyn Courthouses. It certainly was a different world from the one I left at the posh 30 Rock offices of Patterson.
I was happier, but I was very conscious of the fact that there was a glut of personal injury lawyers. I knew that I would have to differentiate myself if I wanted a future in litigation. As luck would have it, the New York Times published an article documenting how there was a shortage of lawyers who could litigate ERISA cases. Seeing that I could combine my ERISA experience with litigation, and fill a desperate need in the legal marketplace, I knew that I had found my niche. I was driven. I again felt the adrenaline rush that I felt when I wrote my book.
I began planning. I started to bring in my own pension and disability cases into the firm. It was, however, with the disability cases that, after 10 years of searching, I learned my passion. Representing and helping individuals who were going through the life crisis of disability was incredibly fulfilling, intellectually stimulating, and financially rewarding. Perhaps, most importantly, I was really really good at it. My calming, trusting, and competent demeanor was exactly what most disabled individuals wanted and needed in their disability attorney. I was happy; my clients were happy; it was a perfect match.
When the disability cases became numerous enough, I, at age 35, took another huge risk, even though I now had two children. I decided I wanted to be in control of my own destiny. To supplement our family income, my wife went back to work, and I started my own law firm, Riemer & Associates in 1994. I never looked back. Riemer & Associates, with its offices in New York City, has become a national leader in long term disability claims, appeals, and litigation. We have assisted hundreds of clients and their families. We have obtained tens of millions of dollars in benefits, settlements and judgments on behalf of our clients.
In an effort to give back, I have performed pro bono services on behalf of cancer patients. In addition, every year, I volunteer my time at the law day of the New York City Chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. In January 2016, I wrote and submitted comments on the proposed disability claims regulations to the United States Department of Labor on behalf of the NYC Chapter of the MS Society.
My Personal Life
I grew up in Massapequa, New York. My father was an elementary school principal and my mother was an artist. I was one of three children. My parents divorced when I was 17, which brought my otherwise idyllic childhood to a sudden end. I think my experience with divorce and the breakup of my family of origin has influenced me a lot, making me more empathetic and more valuing of relationships.
The divorce made me and my siblings closer, at least emotionally. My older sister, Claudia, is now a publisher living in San Francisco and my younger brother, David, works in finance in Dallas. My mother passed away at age 78, but my father is still alive and kicking at age 91. He comes to my office every other week or so and he treats me to lunch. For everybody else in my life, I buy.
I have been married to my wife Fran for over 28 years. On our first date, which was on an ice rink (we were like Rocky and Adrienne in the movie Rocky), we pulled over to the side. When our eyes met, and I looked into her beautiful green eyes, I knew I would marry her. Luckily for me, Fran went home that day and told her roommate that she had the uneasy feeling that she had just met the man she was going to marry. We did, 18 months later. Fran also is originally from Massapequa, New York, although we did not meet until later. We now live in Larchmont, New York. We have two children, both of whom live in New York City. Matthew, who is now 26, works at IBM in artificial intelligence research. He has an engineering degree from Cornell University. Robert, who is now 20, attends the Film School at New York University. One of my biggest joys is playing golf with my sons.
I am an avid reader. I view the time spent commuting to New York City as my sacred time which I devote to reading about religion, philosophy and history. Over the past 28 years commuting on the train, I have read many hundreds of books on these topics.
I love to travel, particularly to Italy. I am a die hard fan of Michigan Football—Go Blue! I am a movie buff. My favorite movies are Casablanca, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and It’s a Wonderful Life. (One day I will add one of my son’s movies to this list). I look forward to our yearly vacation in Montauk on the tip of Long Island with our extended family.
The reading, the golf, and my dedication to what I do for my clients continues.